Heading into the 2023-2024 offseason, there are three areas on the Braves roster that must be upgraded in some fashion — the rotation, the bullpen, and left field.
Pitching will be the primary focus. The Braves need to add at least one arm to the rotation, multiple if Charlie Morton decides to retire, and several pieces to the bullpen. But left field also cannot be ignored. Kevin Pillar is a free agent and Eddie Rosario has a $9 million option. It’s very possible both of them will not return next year, but Anthopoulos needs to find a better right-handed platoon option at the very least.
There are plenty of options that will test free agency; however, there could be even more trade targets available for the Braves.
Braves Outfield Trade Targets
The Orioles had their coming out party this season, locking up the #1 seed in the AL after winning over 100 games, and Santander was a big part of that. He mashed 28 homers with a .797 OPS, accumulating 3.0 WAR. However, he’s going into his final year of arbitration and is projected to make nearly $13 million. That would make him the highest-paid player on the Orioles roster. Baltimore is always trying to shed salary and trading Santander would clear out a logjam they have in the outfield while netting them a decent prospect in return. He’s a very realistic and attainable trade target for the Braves.
O’Niell looked as if he was going to be one of the league’s premier outfielders in 2021, hitting 34 home runs with a .912 OPS over 138 games while winning a Gold Glove. However, injuries have limited him to just 168 games over the last two seasons and affected his production, as he’s only hit 23 homers with a .707 OPS in that stretch. The Cardinals have a crowded outfield, making O’Niell expendable as he enters his final year of arbitration.
Kepler has a $10 million club option that the Twins will surely pick up this offseason, but that doesn’t mean he will play his home games in Minnesota. The Twins have some young players ready to step into full-time roles in the outfield, and Kepler carries some trade value coming off one of the best seasons of his career, where he hit 24 homers with an .816 OPS in 130 games.
Another Cardinals player on this list. Carlson hit 18 homers with a .780 OPS on his way to a third place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year race. But like O’Niell, he’s really struggled over the last two seasons. In a crowded outfield, the Cardinals could look to deal him, and the Braves might want to take a flier on a 25-year-old that has shown he can perform at the major-league level in the past.
Ward broke out last year for the Angels, hitting 23 homers with an .833 OPS over 135 games, and he was on the way to having another really solid campaign in 2023 before he was struck in the face with a fastball at the end of July. Ward never returned as the Angels fell out of the playoff race, and it might be the last time he plays for Los Angeles as a member of the home team. The Angels desperately need to rebuild, and Ward is a solid outfielder with three more years of team control that could fetch a decent haul.
The guys above I would say are realistic options; these next two, not so much, but you never know. The Angels have to move Mike Trout. They are unlikely to re-sign Shohei Ohtani, and they have absolutely no farm system. They need to completely tear it down and rebuild from scratch. With that being said, it’s difficult to gauge Trout’s value right now. He’s the best player of this generation, but he’s become injury prone and is not getting any younger. He’s also owed $35 million over each of the next six years. Trout will undoubtedly garner plenty of interest if made available, but I’ll be intrigued to see what kind of package he fetches. The Braves have the players and financial resources to make something work, but actually landing him is a long shot, and that’s an understatement.
Soto is entering the final year of his contract and seems to be eyeing a contract in the $500 million range. The Braves have never handed out a deal worth half that much, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, even for a player as talented and as young as Soto. Not to mention, they’ll also have to give up tons of young talent to land him in a trade. It’s not happening, but it’s fun to think about.
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